The Crusader states were four Roman Catholic polities created as a consequence of the First Crusade. In 1098 Western European crusaders usurped the city of Edessa and seized Antioch on their armed pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which was taken after a siege in 1099. Territorial consolidation followed including the taking of Tripoli. At the states' largest extent territory covered the coastal areas of southern modern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. These holdings later became known to historians by the term Outremer from the French phrase outre-mer or "the land beyond the sea". Edessa fell to an Turkish warlord in 1144, but the other realms endured into the 13th century before falling to the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt. Antioch was captured in 1268, Tripoli in 1289. When Acre, the capital of the rump kingdom of Jerusalem fell in 1291 the last territories were quickly lost with the survivors fleeing to Cyprus.
The study of the crusader states in their own right, as opposed to being a sub-topic of the Crusades, began in 19th century France as an analogy to the French colonial experience in the Levant. This was rejected by the 20th century historians where the consensus view was that the Franks, as the western European were known, lived as a minority society that was largely urban, isolated from the indigenous peoples, with separate legal and religious systems. The indigenous peoples were from Christian and Islamic traditions speaking Arabic, Greek and Syriac.
The crusader states were founded in the distant borderlands between the Byzantine & Seljuk Empires during a period when the regional polities were fragmented, the rulers were inexperienced, the Great Seljuk sultanate was both disinterested and declining. The confusion and division meant the Islamic world disregarded the world beyond; this made it vulnerable to, and surprised by, first contact with the Franks giving the Franks opportunities to consolidate.
The first encounters between Muslims and western European Christians occurred during the 8th-century Umayyad conquest of Hispania. Relationship between the two groups remained hostile along the common borders. The Franks' stubborn resistance to the Muslim invasion of Gaul astonished most Muslim observers, because the Christians of the Umayyad Caliphate had acquiesced in their status of dhimmi as second-class "protected" citizens. European Christians regarded the regular Muslim raids as signs of the wrath of God, but did not express more animosity towards Muslim corsairs than towards Viking pirates or Magyar raiders.
In the mid-11th century the Muslim world, or Dar al-Islam, included more than 10,000,000 km2 (3,900,000 sq mi) of land in southern Europe, northern Africa and western Asia. It was a highly urbanised society, organised into regional networks of cities and interdependent villages. State administration followed the pre-Islamic concept of "Circle of Equity": a monarch could maintain good governance only with the support of the army and only good governance provide the economic basis of military expenditure. The military finance was through the iqta' system in which the ruler authorised the officers to collect taxes in the village, region or province assigned to them. As the ruler could withdrew this authorisation, the exploitation of the local population was not alien to iqta' holders. Foot soldiers, armed with spears, swords and bows, and lightly armoured mounted archers made up the bulk of Islamic armies. Most of the archers were ghilman or mamluk—Turkic, European or African slaves who were mostly freed after conversion to Islam. Muslim rulers readily employed them as provincial governors or military commanders where they had limited local connections. Religious fervour inspired thousands of Muslims to pursue the jihād—Islamic holy war—along the caliphate's borders as volunteers, known as ghazi or mujahidun.
Debates over the succession to the Islamic prophet Muhammad led to splits in the ummah, or Islamic community. Most Muslims were Sunnis who accepted the caliphs' claim to lead the Muslim world. The first caliphs were elected by Muhammad's companions, but the title became hereditary, held by the Umayyads from 661 and by the Abbasids from 750. The Shi'ites maintained that only descendants of Muhammad's cousin Ali by Muhammad's daughter Fatimah could guide the Muslims as imams. Competing claims to the imamate caused schism among the Shi'ites. The Isma'ili seceeded from mainstream Twelver Shi'ites in the 7th century. New Isma'ili groups arose in the 11th century—the Druze in the 1020s, and the Nizaris in the 1090s. The Nizaris established themselves in a remote Iranian fortress, Alamut, but were eager to gain a foothold in Syria. Unable to compete in military terms they created what was popularly known as the Order of Assassins to kill key opponents.
The Caliphate was home to significant Christian communities, but these were disunited by centuries-old theological and political debates. The Orthodox Christians maintained ties with the state church of the Byzantine Empire—the greatest Christian power of the Levant. In contrast, in 431 the Nestorians split from the Greek church in response to the outcomes of the Council of Ephesus. Twenty years later the Armenians, Egyptian Copts and Syrian Jacobites broke away after the Council of Chalcedon. The Lebanese Maronites' early history is unknown, but they separated from the Greek church after the Muslim conquest in the 7th century.
The Muslim world did not form a united polity. Ambitious mamluk governors usurped power and established dynasties that lasted decades, ruling large territories independent of the Abbasid caliphate. Examples include the Tulunids and Ikhshidids in Egypt, and the Ghaznavids in Greater Khorasan. In the 10th century, the leaders of a militant Isma'ili faction, the Fatimids, assumed the title of caliph, conquering Egypt, western Arabia and parts of Syria. The Byzantines were the first to benefit from disunity in Dar al-Islam. In 969 they conquered Antioch—which had been under Muslim rule for more than three centuries—in Syria. When they annexed Greater Armenia, masses of Armenians opted for emmigration, many to join the diaspora in Cilicia, rather than the rule of the Orthodox Byzantine emperors.
The migration of nomadic Turkic tribes, or Turcomen, from the Central Asian steppes introduced a new dynamic in Near Eastern politics in the 1040s. Led by the Seljuk clan, they had converted to Sunni Islam and destroyed the Shi'ite Buyids' powerbase in Iraq and Iran. The Abbasid caliph rewarded their chief, Tughril, with the title of sultan and in 1055 Tughril assumed almost full control of the administration of the caliphate. The Seljuk Empire was not a unified polity with a single ruler, junior members held provinces as appanages and with the title malik, the Arabic for king. An institutional position of atabeg was adopted for the most powerful military commander in an appanage. In theory, the atabegs were the guardians of underage Seljuk princes but an ambitious atabeg could control the appanage even after the ward reached the age of majority.
Westward migration by the Turcomen continued and they made regular raids against Byzantine territory. In 1071, Tughril's successor, Alp Arslan, defeated the Byzantines at Manzikert prompting the collapse of the Empire's defences and Byzantine civil war. Prolonged conflict in Iran and Syria prevented Alp Arslan and his son, Malik-Shah I, from invading Anatolia. A rebellious Seljuk prince, Suleiman ibn Qutulmish, took the opportunity and seized Byzantine territories in Anatolia where he established the Sultanate of Rum with its capital in Nicaea. A Turcoman chieftain, Danishmend Gazi, founded a competing border state in central Anatolia. Suleiman ibn Qutulmish captured Antioch from the Byzantines, but died fighting Malik-Shah's brother, Tutush I. The Seljuks ended the Fatimids' rule in Syria, but could not fully control the territory. In this power vacuum, autonomous polities emerged, centered around major towns and headed by a Seljuk malik, a Turcoman atabeg, an Arab chief or an Armenian warlord.
Visitors from the Byzantine Empire and the Muslim world regarded Europe as backward region—a supplier of slaves, fur, timber and other raw materials. However, Latin Europe transformed and expanded stably from the 10th century. Moderate growth in population increased the demand for food and new land was brought into cultivation. New channels of trade and communication were developed with distant regions. Kings and aristocrats waged war for new territory in borderlands from Spain to Saxony. The clergy were eager to evangelise and peasants eager for achieve personal freedom and a lower taxes as colonists in newly conquered lands. Norman adventurers seized Byzantine territories in southern Italy. They captured Sicily that was once held by the Byzantines, taking advantage of power struggles between the local Muslim rulers. Levantine commerce intensified and Italian merchants benefitted of the lucrative business. Venice, Pisa and Genoa developed into maritime powers. The Byzantines depended on Venetian naval support and rewarded Venetian merchants with extensive trading privileges. The Pisans and Genoese jointly expelled the Muslims from Sardinia and they also sacked Mahdia in northern Africa.
Medieval Catholic clerics likened an ideal society to human body, consisting of individual parts, each having their own functions within a strict hierarchy. Vassalage was an essential element of most Western European societies. Vassals committed themselves to provide military service to their lords in exchange for a grant of land or other stable source of revenue. The estates held in fief in return for the vassals' allegiance quickly transformed into hereditary property, establishing the economic foundation for a noble and knightly military caste. Central authority was weak and warfare constant. Clerics claimed the highest status for their purported role in the salvation of the laity. Salvation was the principal concern in the medieval mind and Christians made penitential journeys or pilgrimages to shrines in order to earn absolution of their sins. At the beginning of the 11th century Byzantine reconquest of Crete and Cyprus combined with the Hungarians' conversion to Christianity opened safer routes to the Holy Land known from the New Testament as the venue of Jesus' life and crucifiction. The devoution of these Christians meant they were not discouraged by the hardships of the journey.
In the mid-11th century, Reformist clerics challenged secular influence in the church with the idea of libertas ecclesiae, or liberty of the Church. This movement emphasised the popes' position as the supreme leader of the church hierarchy in Catholic Europe. Orthodox Christians disagreed, maintaining that the pope was only one of five patriarchs who led the universal church. Theological and political debate culminated in 1054 with the mutual excommunication of the other by the papal legate and the patriarch of Constantinople. However, the East–West Schism did not fully end communion between the two churches. The popes needed military power if they were to enforce supreme authority. The dependence on the secular underpined the ideology of Christian holy war as the popes began granting spiritual rewards to their supporters.
From Late Antiquity the Byzantine army utilised mercenaries. Traditionally these were hired Turkic and western European troops, but conflict with the neighbouring Turkic peoples increased the importance of the use of European soldiery. Emperor Alexios I Komnenos appealed to Pope Urban II for support in raising troops to fight the Turcomen. On 27 November 1095 at the Council of Clermont, the Pope responded with a proclamation of the First Crusade that offered absolution of the participants' sins. The enterprise was probably modelled on a pilgrimage with Urban's speech addressing the poor as well as knights. This prompted a ground-swell of popular enthusiasm among poor Christians leading to what is known as the People's Crusade. These crusaders were ambushed by the Turks and annihilated at Civetot in October 1096. They were followed by feudal armies under the command of western European nobles: Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse; Godfrey of Bouillon, Duke of Lower Lorraine; Robert, Duke of Normandy; Stephen, Count of Blois; and Bohemond, Prince of Taranto.
Some of the crusader leaders obviously departed for the armed pilgrimage with an intention of establishing their own holdings in the Levant. Godfrey, who had distributed his Lotharingian patrimony, was in need of new lands. Bohemond, a minor Norman prince in southern Italy, could achieve a higher status through conquest. Alexios welcomed cautiously the crusader leaders to Constantinople and extracted their promise to return to him all recovered Byzantine territory. With the Byzantines Nicea was recaptured and in July 1097 the crusade was victorious over a united Seljuk and Danishmendid army in the Battle of Dorylaeum.
In 1095 the Byzantine emperor, Alexios I Komnenos, requested military support from the Council of Piacenza for the fight with the Turks. Later that year, at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban supported this and exhorted war. This prompted a popular outbreak amongst poor Christians, led by the French priest Peter the Hermit, known as the People's Crusade. Passing through Germany they indulged in wide-ranging anti-Jewish activities and massacres. On leaving Byzantine-controlled territory in Anatolia they were annihilated in a Turkish ambush at the Battle of Civetot in October 1096. They were followed by a feudal army that may have numbered 100,000 including non-combatant that was cautiously welcomed to Byzantium by Alexios late in 1096. He made them promise to return all recovered Byzantine territory These promises were not kept, for example Bohemond I retained Antioch when it was captured, rather than returning it and fought with the Byzantines for a decade until his failure in Italy at the Siege of Dyrrhachium (1107–1108).
After the capturing Jerusalem [Godfrey of Bouillon]] was left with only 300 knights and 2,000 infantry to defend the city. Of the crusader princes only Tancred remained, with the aim of establishing his own lordship. At this point the Franks, as the western European crusaders were commonly known, held only Jerusalem, Antioch and Edessa but not the surrounding country. Jerusalem remained economically sterile, despite the advantages of being the centre of administration for church and state and benefiting from streams of pilgrims.
Consolidation in the first half of the 12th-century established four crusader states:
Feudalism in the East differed with that of west in that in the East there were two classes of Frank; the nobles, all those that were knights and above, and the burgesses, the remainder of the Frankish population not only in the towns as might be assumed by the name. The majority of the Frankish nobility had journeyed with the early crusades. Most of these, with the exception of the ruling dynasties in each crusader state, were men of modest means in their homeland who had bettered themselves since emigrating. This nobility came to accommodation with the inhabitants of the region that later immigrant adventurers found hard to accept. Further conflict between the two groups was prompted by contests for marriage to wealthy heiresses. The Italians managed international trade while the burgesses were largely engaged in domestic commerce. They formed the bulk of the population in Jersualem but in Edessa, Antioch and Tripoli they were outnumbered by locals.
The crusader states were religiously, ethnically and linguistically different to the peoples of the Near East, even the indigenous Christians. Options for intermarriage were limited by this, although there are examples involving Armenians and Byzantines. The Franks tended to intermarry within their own circles resulting in a risk of consanguinity and enabling easy annulments. The situation provided greater opportunity for noble women in the East. In a society where grown men were frequently killed in combat and boys tended to die young they were often left as sole heirs. Property, fiefs and even the crown were inherited by females and primogeniture rather than division between sisters prevailed. In 1131 a highly unusual direction for royal succession led to Melisende being crowned jointly with her husband Fulk and their son Baldwin in Jerusalem. Normal western European practice would have been to bypass the female line completely in favour of the nearest male relative. Female rule was highly unusual during the 12th and 13th centuries. Melisende created a precedent as the first designated heir and regnant queen. This was followed by four consecutive reigning queens between 1186 and 1212: Sibylla, Isabella I, Maria and Isabella II of Jerusalem who all married nobles from either France, Italy or the Holy Roman Empire. This was the only instance of consecutive female succession in this context; it resulted from the unique combination of relatively new dynasty with the political, social, cultural and religious mileu. There were no rules for gender succession in the kingdom in the early 12th century and female succession was a necessity to maintain the bloodline. Without a male heir, female heiresses provided the conduit of the family’s possessions from one generation to the next. Over time female autonomy diminished as the High Court adopted control over royal marriage. Before the 1160s heiresses could marry whom they choose, but Amalric changed this. From this point the High Court proposed three prospective bridegrooms from which the heiress was compelled to select one to marry.
Melisende was active in government appearing on charters as filia regis et regni hierosolimitani haeres and asserted her rights against both her husband and son. Although in principle and by convention a female heir was required to pass authority to the next male heir. She eventually did this to Baldwin, after he came of age and demanded his rights. As ruler she maintained a network of power with other female rulers: her sister Hodierna ruled Tripoli as regent for her son, after the assassination of her husband Raymond II; her niece Constance was regnant princess of Antioch following the death of her husband Raymond of Poitiers. Before she died young, Sibylla also gave her legal consent on grants and letters. By the time of Isabella, the High Court selected who she would marry raising the legal question whether her husbands ruled independently or were only consorts. This was resolved in the Livre au Roi which stated that an elected king must submit his acts to the High Court and the reigning queen for approval. Her daughter Maria continued in this fashion although there is little evidence whether this was her taking an active part in government or only administrative process. When she died in childbirth the same legal questions around her husband John of Brienne's rights as a paternal regent were raised, as had been for Guy. The function of queenship can be seen to have evolved from the 11th century and changed after the fall of Jerusalem in 1187. Melisende had authority in her own right but this was not realistic for those who came after. The co-rulership of the 1130s developed into joint sovereignty of Guy and Sibylla until the need of martial leadership became paramount. This was unique for times because of the unusual nature of the crusader states themselves.
From the early 12th century the four crusader states shared a common purpose based on fear of Muslim attack, the monarchy’s strength in Jerusalem and distrust of the Byzantine Greeks. Although reduced from the time of the Macedonian dynasty, the Byzantine Empire was in military terms the strongest European or Near Eastern Christian state and under the Komnenos was reviving. The Emperors valued the role the crusader states provided as a buffer between the Empire and the Muslim Powers. Accordingly, they provided significant financial support including the ransoming of noble Franks held captive by the Muslims. The Byzantines considered Antioch a vassal state. They attempted enforcing this and the princes of Antioch resisted. In contrast Jerusalem and Constantinople were considered close to equals. Following the destruction of the Empire at the start of the 13th century by the Fourth Crusade the situation changed. Instead of being able to rely on military support. The successor Latin states became competitors drawing away western aid, knights, migration and trade. The crusader states were in reduced straits. Edessa was lost, Jerusalem retreated to the coastal plain, Antioch and Tripoli were merged into a single principality. Two new regional kingdoms of Armenia and Cyprus emerged. Leo of Armenia interfered in Antioch encouraging a civil war between Raymond-Roupen and his uncle Bohemond IV of Antioch for the throne. The Armenians also fought the Templars for decades. Cyprus divided the interests of the Franco-Syrian nobility who balanced the interests of their continental and island possessions. Until 1268, Cyprus and Jerusalem preceded in parallel before uniting under the personal union of Hugh III of Cyprus. After the fall of Acre, the Franks of the Syrian cities found refuge in Cyprus where the institutions and customs of the crusader states continued for two hundred years. After the Papacy European relations were closest to France as most of the crusaders were French. France was the source of noble husbands and military support from the like of St. Louis and Theobald I of Navarre. Later they were dominated by the kingdom of Naples. Firstly through Frederick II, then Charles of Anjou. Large parts of the coastal towns became virtual colonies of Venice, Genoa, Pisa and other commercial communes. In the latter half of the century Syria became a battle ground for two major powers that the Franks were unable to match. Muslim disunity ceased with the rise of the Mamluks in Egypt in 1250 and the Mongols arrived from the East in 1259. Antioch and Armenia faced the Mongols first and quickly became dependencies while in the south cities such as Acre allied with the Mamluks. A Mongol alliance against the Mamluks was also unsuccessfully sought by the papacy and of St. Louis.
Modern research using historical geography techniques indicate that Muslims and indigenous Christian populations were less integrated than historians previously thought. Palestinian Christians lived around Jerusalem and in an arc stretching from Jericho and the Jordan to Hebron in the south. Comparisons of archaeological evidence of Byzantine churches built prior the Muslim conquest and 16th century Ottoman census records demonstrate that while some Greek Orthodox communities had disappeared prior the crusades, most continued during and for centuries after the crusader states. Maronites were concentrated in Tripoli; Jacobites in Antioch and Edessa. Armenians were concentrated in the north but communities existed in all major towns. Palestine's central areas had a Muslim majority population. The Muslims were mainly Sunnis, but Shi'ite communities existed in Galilee. The nonconformist Muslim Druzes were recorded living in the mountains of Tripoli. The Jewish population resided in coastal towns and some Galilean villages. Little resaerch has been done on Islamic conversion but the limited available evidence led Ellenblum to believe that around Nablus and Jerusalem Christians remained a majority.
Peasants living off the land formed the vast majority of the indigenous population, particularly after the massacres and sieges of the early 11th century led to widespread death and emmigration among the native city dwellers. Charters from the beginning of the 12th century show evidence of the donation of local villeins to nobles and religious instituitions. This may have been a method of denoting the revenues from these villeins or land where the boundaries were unclear. These are described as villanus, surianus for Christians or sarracenus for muslims. The term servus was reserved for the numerous urban, domestic slaves the Franks held in Jerusalem. The use of villanus is thought to possibly reflect the higher status that villagers or serfs held in the near East or that the indigenous men referred to were considered to have servile land tenures rather than that they lacked personal freedom. The difference between the Western serf and Near Eastern villein was that the latter could marry outside their lords' domain, were not obliged to perform unpaid labour, could hold land and inherit property. However, because the Franks needed to maintain productivity the villagers were tied to the land. Charters evidence landholders agreeing to return any villeins from other landholders they found on their property. Peasants were required to pay the lord one quarter to a half of crop yields, the muslim pilgrim Ibn Jubayr reported there was also a poll tax of one dinar and five qirat per head and a tax on produce from trees. 13th century charters indicate this increased after the loss of the first kingdom to compensate the Franks for the resulting loss of income. These are the reasons that the use of the term indentured peasant is considered by historian Christopher MacEvitt to be a more accurate description for the villagers in the Latin East rather than serf.
The Frankish population of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was concentrated in three major cities. By the 13th century the population of Acre probably exceeded 60,000, then came Tyre, with the capital being the smallest of the three with a population somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000. At its zenith, the Latin population of the region reached c. 250,000 with the Kingdom of Jerusalem's population numbering c. 120,000 and the combined total in Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa being broadly comparable. The presence of Frankish peasants is evident in 235 villages, out of a total of some 1,200 rural settlements. Some were planned villages, established to encourage settlers from the West and some were shared with native Christians. The native population lived in casalia, or rural settlements, each including the dwellings of about 3-50 families. In context, Josiah Russell estimates the population of what he calls "Islamic territory" as roughly 12.5 million in 1000—Anatolia 8 million, Syria 2 million, Egypt 1.5 million and North Africa 1 million — with the European areas that provided crusaders having a population of 23.7 million. He estimates that by 1200 that these figures had risen to 13.7 million in Islamic territory—Anatolia 7 million, Syria 2.7 million, Egypt 2.5 million and North Africa 1.5 million— while the crusaders' home countries population was 35.6 million. Russell acknowledges that much of Anatolia was Christian or under the Byzantines and that some purportedly Islamic areas such as Mosul and Baghdad had significant Christian populations.
The Franks ruled as an elite and outnumbered class. As such, linguistic differences remained a key differentiator between the Franks lords and the local population. The Franks typically spoke Old French and wrote in Latin. While some learnt Arabic, Greek, Armenian, Syriac and Hebrew this was unusual. Society was politically and legally stratified, with self-governing, ethnically-based communities. Though relations between communities were controlled by the Franks. Research into the society of the crusader states focussed on the role of the ruʾasāʾ, Arabic for leader, chief or mayor. Riley-Smith divided these into the urban, those that he considered freemen, and the rural who were tied to the land. Not only did these men administer the Frankish estates and govern the native communities but evidence indicates they were often respected local landowners in their own right. If the communities were segregated as indicated by the written evidence and indentified by Riley-Smith and Prawer inter-communal conflict was avoided because interaction between the landed and the peasants was limited. Alternatively, McEvitt identifies possible tension between competing groups. According to the 13th century jurists, in the towns the Rais presided over the Cour des Syriens and there is other evidence that on occasion they led local troops. Civil disputes and minor criminality were administered by these courts of the indigenous communities, but more serious offences and cases involving Franks were dealt with by the Frankish cour des bourgeois or courts of the burgesses, the name given to the non-noble Franks. The lack of material evidence makes it difficult to identify the level of assimilation. The archaeology is culturally exclusive and written evidence indicates deep religious divisions, although some historians assume that the states' heterogeneity eroded formal apartheid. The key differentiator in status and economic position was between urban and rural dwellers. Indigenous Christians could gain higher status and acquire wealth through commerce and industry in towns, but few Muslims lived in urban areas except those in servitude.
Frankish courts reflected the region's diversity. Queen Melisende was part Armenian and married Fulk from Anjou. Their son Amalric, first married a Frank from the Levant, then a Byzantine Greek. William of Tyre was appalled at the use of Jewish, Syrian and Muslim physicians, who were popular among the nobility. Greek and Arabic speaking Christians made Antioch a centre of cultural interchange. The indigenous peoples showed the Frankish nobility traditional deference. Some Franks adopted the their dress, food, housing and military techniques. This does not mean that Frankish society was a cultural melting pot. Inter-communal relations were shallow, separate identities were maintained and other communities were considered alien.
In addition to being economic centres themselves, the crusader states provided an obstacle to Muslim trade by sea with the west and to the land routes from Mesopotamia and Syria to the great urban economies of the Nile. Despite hostility, commerce continued, coastal cities remained maritime outlets for the Islamic hinterland and eastern wares were exported to Europe in unprecedented volumes. The Byzantine-Muslim mercantile growth in the 12th and 13th centuries may have occurred anyway, as the Western European economy was booming due to population growth; this increased wealth and created a growing social class demanding city centred products and eastern imports, but it is likely that the Crusades hastened the developments. European fleets were expanded, better ships built, navigation improved and fare paying pilgrims subsidised many voyages. Agricultural production, largely the domain of the indigenous population, flourished before the fall of the First Kingdom in 1187, but was negligible afterwards. Franks, Muslims, Jews and indigenous Christians traded crafts in the souks, teeming oriental bazaars, of the cities. Olives, grapes, wheat and barley were the most important agricultural products before Saladin's conquests. Glass making and soap production were major industries in the towns. The Italian, Provençal and Catalan merchants monopolised shipping, imports, exports, transportation and banking. The Frankish noble and ecclesiastical institutional income was based on income from estates, market tolls and taxation. Seigniorial monopolies, or bans, existed, compelling the peasantry to use the landowners' mills, ovens and other facilities. The presence of hand-mills in most households implies that the serfs sometimes circumvented their lords' monopolies. The main centres of production were Antioch, Tripoli, Tyre and, less importantly, Beirut. Textiles, glass, dyestuffs, olives, wine, sesame oil and sugar were exported; silk was particularly prized. The Frankish population, estimated at roughly a quarter of a million people, provided an import market for clothing and finished goods.
The Franks adopted the more monetised indigenous economic system, using a hybrid coinage: predominantly northern Italian and southern French silver European coins; Frankish variant copper coins minted in Arabic and Byzantine styles; and silver and gold dirhams and dinars. After 1124, Egyptian dinars were copied, creating Jerusalem's gold bezant. Following the collapse of the first kingdom of Jerusalem in 1187, trade, rather than agriculture, increasingly dominated the economy and western coins began dominating the coinage in circulation. Although lords in Tyre, Sidon and Beirut minted silver pennies and copper coins there is little evidence of systematic attempts to create a unified currency.
During the period of near constant warfare in the early decades of the 12th century, the king of Jerusalem's foremost role was leader of the feudal host. They very rarely awarded land or lordships, and those awarded that became vacant—a frequent event due to the high mortality rate in the conflict—reverted to the crown. Instead their followers' loyalty was rewarded with city incomes. As a result, the royal domain of the first five rulers —including much of Judea, Samaria, the coast from Jaffa to Ascalon, the ports of Acre and Tyre, and other scattered castles and territories—was larger that the combined holdings of the nobility. This meant that the rulers of Jerusalem had greater internal power than comparative western monarchs, although they did not have the necessary administrative systems and personnel to govern such a large realm.
The situation evolved in the second quarter of the century with the establishment of baronial dynasties. Magnates—such as Raynald of Châtillon, Lord of Oultrejordain, and Raymond III, Count of Tripoli, Prince of Galilee—often acted as autonomous rulers. Royal powers were abrogated and effectively governance was undertaken within the feudatories. What central control remained was exercised at the Haute Cour—High Court, in English. Only the 13th century jurists of Jerusalem used this term, curia regis was more common in Europe. These were meetings between the king and his tenants in chief. Over time the duty of the vassal to give counsel developed into a privilege and ultimately the legitimacy of the monarch depended on the agreement of the court. In practice, the High Court consisted of the great barons and the king's direct vassals. In law a quorum was the king and three tenants in chief. The 1162 the assise sur la ligece theoretically expanded the court's membership to all 600 or more fief-holders, making them all peers. All those who paid homage directly to the king were now members of the Haute Cour of Jerusalem. They were joined by the heads of the military orders by the end of the 12th century, and the Italian communes in the 13th century. The leaders of the Third Crusade ignored the monarchy of Jerusalem; the kings of England and France agreed on the division of future conquests as if there was no need to take into account the nobility of the crusader states. Joshua Prawer considered that the weakness of the crown of Jerusalem was demonstrated by the rapid offering of the throne to Conrad of Montferrat in 1190 and then Henry II, Count of Champagne in 1192. This was given legal effect by Baldwin IV's will stipulating if Baldwin V died a minor the Pope, the kings of England and France, and the Holt Roman Emperor should select the successor.
Before the defeat at Hattin in 1187 the laws developed by the court were documented as assises in Letters of the Holy Sepulchre. After Hattin the Franks lost their cities, lands and churches. Many barons feld to Cyprus and intermarried with leading new emigres from the Lusignan, Montbéliard, Brienne and Montfort families. This created a class apart from the remnents of the old nobility with limited understanding of the Latin East including the king-consorts Guy, Conrad, Henry, Aimery, John and the absent Hohenstaufen that followed. The entire body of written law was lost in the subsequent fall of Jerusalem. From this point the legal system was largely based on custom and the memory of the lost legislation. The renowned jurist Philip of Novara lamented "We know [the laws] rather poorly, for they are known by hearsay and usage...and we think an assize is something we have seen as an assize...in the kingdom of Jerusalem [the barons] made much better use of the laws and acted on them more surely before the land was lost". Thus a myth was created of an idyllic early 12th century legal system. The barons used this to reinterpret the assise sur la ligece, which Almalric I intended to strengthen the crown, to instead constrain the monarch, particularly with regards to the right of the monarch to remove feudal fiefs without trial. The concomitant loss of the vast majority of rural fiefs led to the barons becoming an urban mercantile class where knowledge of the law was a valuable, well-regarded skill and a career path to higher status. The barons of Jerusalem in the 13th century have been poorly regarded by both contemporary and modern commentators: James of Vitry was disgusted by their superficial rhetoric; Riley-Smith writes of their pedantry and the use of spurious legal justification for political action. For the barons themselves it was this ability to articulate the law that was so prized. The sources of this are the elaborate and impressive treatises by the great baronial jurists from the second half of the 13th century.
The Barons invoked the assise sur la ligece three times in justification of open opposition to arbitrary acts by the king: in 1198, 1229 and 1232. The precedent was set by Ralph of Tiberias when he was accused of attempted regicide. King Aimery had narrowly survived an attemped murder in Tyre by four armed members of the German Crusade. While recovering he became convinced that Ralph was responsible. At a meeting of the High Court Aimery exiled him, ordering his departure from the kingdom within eight days. In response, Ralph devised a defence based on an interpretation of the assise sur la ligece. The defence was that it was an absolute necessity that a case concerning the relationship between a lord and his vassal was judged in court, that vassals were peers bound to give mutual assistance and that vassals should withdraw service from a lord who refused to submit to the court's decision. Ralph's innovation was applying the Assise to the king himself. Aimery refused. His vassals withdrew service from him until 1200 following great words but Ralph still went into banishment. He only returned in 1207 after the king’s death. In the later accounts of the jurists, Ralph was credited with a great achievement. He set a precedent in applying the assise to the actions of the crown. This provided him and his peers with justification, a method of resistance and sanctions that could be legally applied. At the same time it is clear that the use of the assise sur la ligece was not effective. Aimery's refusal meant Ralph had still found it necessary to leave the country.
The second time the precedent was consciously followed followed the arrival in the kingdom of Emperor Frederick II in 1228. Three years earlier he had become king-consort when he married Isabella II and immediately claimed the throne of Jerusalem from her father, the king-regent, John of Brienne. Isabella died in the summer of that year, after giving birth to a son. The son, Conrad, was through his mother the king of Jerusalem. As a result, on his arrival Frederick was received as regent. In 1229, Frederick successfully negotiated the return of Jerusalem, lost in 1187, from Egypt and went under the imperial crown in the Holy Sepulchre. Perhaps in a fit of hubris following the acquisition of the city, according to the later baronial jurists, he instructed his bailli Balian Grenier to take control of the Acre possessions of John of Beirut, Walter I Grenier, Walter III of Caesarea, John of Jaffa, Robert of Haifa, Phillip l'asne and John Moriau. These barons invoked the assise sur la ligece and the barons combined force restored their possessions. According to a surviving charter, Alice of Armenia took the same approach to claim the lordship of Toron. Frederick had awarded this to the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem on its recovery. After this was decided in Alice's favour, a clear baronial victory, the Barons re-entered the Emperor's service. This was the high point of the vassals ability to use the law to resist a monarch infringing what they believed to be their rights. From May 1229 when Frederick II left the Holy Land to defend his Italian and German lands, monarchs were absent—Conrad from 1225 until 1254, his son Conradin until his execution by Charles of Anjou in 1268. Government in Jerusalem had developed in the opposite direction to monarchies in the west. European monarchs such as St Louis, Emperor Frederick and Kind Edward I—contemporary rulers of France, Germany and England respectively—were powerful with bureaucracratic machinary for administration, jurisdiction and legislation. Jerusalem had a royalty without power.
The third invocation of the assise sur la ligece followed the Ibelin's fight for control with an Italian army led by Frederick's viceroy Richard Filangieri in the War of the Lombards. Filangieri beseiged John of Beirut's city and convened the High Court to confirm his appointment as regent. When the court demanded he lifted the seige, Filangieri implied John had committed treason and if the court disagreed they should write to the Emperor for final judgement. Tyre, the Hospitallers, the Teutonic Knights and the Pisans supported Filangieri. In opposition were the Ibelins, Acre, the Templars and Genoa. The rebels established a surragate commune, or parliament in Acre. The commune was developed from the cofraternity of St Andrew. It had its own bell and officers. The most important was the major, a position for which John of Beirut was chosen. There was also a deputy major, consuls and captains. Membership was open to all free men. While the commune presented itself as representing the whole country, it did not even represent all of Acre and large numbers still supported the Emperor. After 1236 there is little wriiten evidence of the commune's activities and it is clear that it never adopted governmental functions. The main objective seems to be an attempt to match Filangieri's mandate and resist Frederick II. Ultimately, the barons' motive was the result of Filangieri rejecting the invocation of the Assise. The Barons withdrew their service and attempted to use force but this was ineffective. Filangieri's Italian army was more than capable of resisting. This demonstrated the weakness in the Baron's case. The Assise relied on the king being weak, with a strong force of what John called foreign people, or mercenaries supporting the monarchy the Assise could not be enforced. The baronial jurists such as Phillip of Novara and John of Jaffa do not mention this failure, the events of 1232 or even the balliage of Filangieri. Instead their impressive treatments articulated their political and constitutional ideas rather than the political reality.
When Conrad reached majority in 1242 the Barons finally prevailed Tyre was captured, and a succession of Ibelin and Cypriot regents followed. Centralised government collapsed while the nobility, military orders and Italian communes took the lead. Three Cypriot Lusignan kings succeeded without the financial or military resources to recover the lost territory. The title of king was even sold to Charles of Anjou, but although he gained power for a short while, he never visited the kingdom. The king of Cyprus fought at Acre until all hope was lost and then returned to his island realm. Cyprus survived the fall of the mainland crusader states and in 1365 Peter I of Cyprus launched the last crusade against Egypt that temporarily captured Alexandria.
Indigenous Christians shared each others churches, priests and even took the sacraments together. There is no wriiten evidence that the Franks or local Christians recognised significant religious differences until the 13th century when the jurists repeatedly used phrases such as men not of the rule of Rome. Partly a result of anti-Orthodox sentiment the early crusaders filled ecclesiastical positions in the Orthodox church left vacant with Franks, including the patriarchy of Jerusalem when Simeon II died. The Greek Orthodox Church was considered part of the universal Church, which enabled the replacement of Orthodox bishops by Latin clerics in coastal towns. The first Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Arnulf of Chocques, ejected the Greek Orthodox monks from the Holy Sepulchre but relented when the miracle of Easter Fire failed in their absence. The appointment of Latin bishops had little effect on the Arabic-speaking Orthodox Christians because the previous bishops were also foreign, from the Byzantine Empire. The Latin bishops used Greeks as coadjutor bishops to administer Syrians and Greeks left without higher clergy. In many villages Latin and Orthodox Christians shared a church. In exceptional political circumstances, Greeks replaced Latin patriarchs in Antioch. Orthodox monasteries were rebuilt and Orthodox monastic life revived. This toleration continued despite an increasingly interventionist papal reaction demonstrated by Jacques de Vitry, Bishop of Acre. The Armenians, Copts, Jacobites, Nestorians and Maronites had greater autonomy. As they were not in communion with Rome they could retain their own bishops without a conflict of authority. Around 1181 Aimery of Limoges, Patriarch of Antioch, managed to bring the Maronites into communion with Rome, establishing a precedent for the Uniate Churches.
That religion prevented assimilation is evidenced by the Franks' discriminatory laws against Jews and Muslims. They were banned from living in Jerusalem and sexual relations between Muslims and Christians were punished by mutilation. Some mosques were converted into Christian churches, but the Franks did not force Muslims to convert to Christianity. Frankish lords were particularly reluctant, because conversion would have ended the Muslim peasants' servile status. The Muslims were permitted to pray in public and their pilgrimages to Mecca continued. The Samaritans' annual Passover festival attracted visitors from beyond the kingdom's borders.
One Frankish weakness was the lack of sea-power. This was addressed by the purchase of naval resources from the Italian maritime republics of Pisa, Venice and Genoa. These republics were enthusiastic crusaders from the early 11th century whose commercial wealth secured the financial base of the Franks. In return these cities, and others such as Amalfi, Barcelona and Marseilles, received commercial rights and access to Eastern markets. Over time this developed into colonial communities with property and jurisdictional rights.
Largely located in the ports of Acre, Tyre, Tripoli and Sidon, communes of Italians, Provençals and Catalans had distinct cultural characteristics and exerted significant political power. Separate from the Frankish nobles or burgesses, the communes were autonomous political entities closely linked to their towns of origin. This gave them the ability to monopolise foreign trade and almost all banking and shipping in the kingdom of Jerusalem. Their parent cities' naval support was essential for the crusader states. Every opportunity to extend trade privileges was taken. One example saw the Venetians receiving one-third of Tyre and its territories, and exemption from all taxes, after Venice participated in the successful 1124 siege of the city. Despite all efforts, the Syrian and Palestinian ports were unable to replace Alexandria and Constantinople as the primary centres of commerce in the region. Instead, the communes competed with the monarchs and each other to maintain economic advantage. Power derived from the support of the communards' home cities rather than their number, which never reached more than hundreds. Thus, by the middle of the 13th century, the rulers of the communes were barely required to recognise the authority of the crusaders and divided Acre into several fortified miniature republics.
The crusaders habitually followed the customs of their Western European homelands and there were very few cultural innovations in the crusader states. Three notable exceptions to this were the military orders, warfare and fortifications. The order of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, more commonly known as the Templars, was formed in 1119 with a mission to protect pilgrims in the perilous territory. The founders were a group of knights attached to the Holy Sepulchre. They were formally recognised at the council of Nablus and eventually granted the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount to use as the orders headquarters. This was known to the Franks as Solomon's Temple from which the order's name derives. The founding leaders, Hugues de Payens and Godfrey de Saint-Omer travelled to Europe and in 1129 the order was recognised by the Latin Church at the Council of Troyes. Unshrining this in a detail rule, support, privileges and immunities followed from the papacy. Donations of estates across Western Europe and the Levant enabled the order to provide the crusader states with troops, funding, loans and luxury accommodation for travellers.
The Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem were more commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller. The order began with the operation of an Amalfi funded pilgrim hospital in Jerusalem during the 1080s. After the arrival of the early crusaders they started receiving generous donations both locally and in the west. In 1113 the order that moved from a lay organisation to a religious one was recognised by the pope. It grew into an enormous concern with extensive estates in Italy, Catalonia and Southern France. The income from these provided funding for hundreds of beds serving patients from all religions and genders. By 1126 a military dimension had been added and members formed part of the army from Jerusalem that attacked Damascus.
The creation of communities of warrior monks united the two medieval ideals of monasticism and knighthood. During the 12th and 13th centuries the Knights Hospitaller and Knights Templar developed into Latin Christendom's first professional armies. They were now supranational organisations with autonomous powers in the region. The template presented by these two organisations led to the formation of further orders. These stretched as far as the Iberian Peninsula and Christendom's northern borders. Notable examples were the Order of Saint Lazarus, founded in 1130, for knights with leprosy and in 1190 the Teutonic Order]]. This is more commonly known as the Teutonic Order. By 1180 the number of castles controlled and the 700 knights that the military orders could put in the field matched that from all other sources available to the kingdom of Jerusalem. The knightly elite was also supported by massive organisations of sergeants, clerics, layman and servants.
According to Joshua Prawer no major European poet, theologian, scholar or historian settled in the crusader states. Some went on pilgrimage, and this is reflected in new imagery and ideas in western poetry. Although they did not migrate east themselves, their output often encouraged others to journey on pilgrimage to the east.
Historians consider military architecture—demonstrating a synthesis of the European, Byzantine and Muslim traditions—the most original and impressive artistic achievement of the crusades. Castles were a tangible symbol of the dominance of a Latin Christian minority over a largely hostile majority population. They also acted as centres of administration. Modern historiography rejects the 19th-century consensus that Westerners learnt the basis of military architecture from the Near East, as Europe had already experienced rapid growth in defensive technology. Direct contact with Arab fortifications originally constructed by the Byzantines did influence developments in the east. But the lack of documentary evidence means that it remains difficult to differentiate between the importance of this design culture and the constraints of situation, which led to the inclusion of oriental design features such as large water reservoirs and the exclusion of occidental features like moats. Castles acted as centres of defence and administration. stimulating the development of new settlements.
Typically, early church design was in the French Romanesque style. This can be seen in the 12th-century rebuilding of the Holy Sepulchre. It retained some of the earlier Byzantine details, but new arches and chapels were built to northern French, Aquitanian and Provençal patterns. There is little trace of any surviving indigenous influence in sculpture, although in the Holy Sepulchre the column capitals of the south facade follow classical Syrian patterns.
In contrast to architecture and sculpture, it is in the area of visual culture that the assimilated nature of the society was demonstrated. Throughout the 12th and 13th centuries the influence of indigenous artists was demonstrated in the decoration of shrines, painting and the production of manuscripts. In addition, Frankish practitioners borrowed methods from the Byzantines and indigenous artists and iconographical practice. Monumental and panel painting, mosaics and illuminations in manuscripts adopted an indigenous style leading to a cultural synthesis illustrated by the Church of the Nativity. Wall mosaics were unknown in the west but in widespread use in the crusader states. Whether this was by indigenous craftsmen or learnt by Frankish ones is unknown, but a distinctive and original artistic style evolved.
Manuscripts were produced and illustrated in workshops housing Italian, French, English and indigenous craftsmen leading to a cross-fertilisation of ideas and techniques. An example of this is the Melisende Psalter, created by several hands in a workshop attached to the Holy Sepulchre. This style could have either reflected or influenced the taste of patrons of the arts. But what is seen is an increase in stylised Byzantine-influenced content. This even extended to the production of icons, unknown at the time to the Franks, sometimes in a Frankish style and even of western saints. This is seen as the origin of Italian panel painting. While it is difficult to track illumination of manuscripts and castle design back to their sources, textual sources are simpler. The translations made in Antioch are notable, but they are considered of secondary importance to the works emanating from Muslim Spain and from the hybrid culture of Sicily.
Reports from John of Ibelin indicate that around 1170 the military force of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was based on a feudal host of about 647 to 675 heavily armoured knights. Each feudatory would also provide his own armed retainers. Non-noble light cavalry and infantry were known as serjants. The prelates and the towns were to provide 5,025 serjants to the royal army, according to Ibelin's list. This force would be augmented by hired soldiery called Turcopoles. In times of emergency, the king could also call upon a general muster of the whole Christian population.
Joshua Prawer estimated that the military orders could match the king's fighting strength. This means the total military of the kingdom was approximately 1,200 knights and 10,000 serjants. Enough for further territorial gains, but fewer than required to maintain military domination. This was also a problem defensively. Putting a major army into the field required draining castles and cities of able-bodied fighting men. In the case of a defeat, such as the Battle of Hattin, there remained few to resist the invaders. Muslim armies were incohesive and seldom campaigned outside the period between sowing and harvest. As a result, the crusaders adopted delaying tactics when faced with a superior invading Muslim force. They would avoid direct confrontation, instead retreating to strongholds and waiting for the Muslim army to disperse. It took generations before the Muslims recognised that they could not conquer the Franks without destroying the Franks' fortresses. This strategic change forced the crusaders away from the tactic of gaining and holding territory, including Jerusalem. Instead their aim became to attack and destroy Egypt. By removing this constant regional challenge, the crusaders hoped to gain the necessary time to improve the kingdom's demographic weakness. Egypt was isolated from the other Islamic power centres, it would be easier to defend and was self-sufficient in food.
Little was achieved by a Fifth Crusade, primarily raised from Hungary, Germany, Flanders and led by King Andrew II of Hungary and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria. The crusaders attacked Egypt to break the Muslim hold on Jerusalem. Damietta was captured but then returned and an eight-year truce agreed after the Franks advancing into Egypt surrendered. In 1249 Louis IX led a crusade attacking Egypt, was defeated at the Battle of Al Mansurah and the crusaders were captured as they retreated. Louis and his nobles were ransomed, other prisoners were given a choice of conversion to Islam or beheading. A ten-year truce was established and Louis remained in Syria until 1254 consolidating the Frankish position.
After the fall of Acre the Hospitallers first relocated to Cyprus. The order conquered and ruled Rhodes (1309–1522) and Malta (1530–1798). The Sovereign Military Order of Malta survives to the present-day. King Philip IV of France probably had financial and political reasons to oppose the Knights Templar, which led to him exerting pressure on Pope Clement V. The pope responded in 1312 dissolving the order on the alleged and probably false grounds of sodomy, magic and heresy.
The raising, transportation, and supply of large armies led to flourishing trade between Europe and the crusader states. The Italian city-states of Genoa and Venice flourished, through profitable trading communes. Many historians argue that the interaction between the western Christian and Islamic cultures played a significant, ultimately positive, part in the development of European civilisation and the Renaissance. Relations between Europeans and the Islamic world, stretching across the length of the Mediterranean Sea, led to an improved perception of Islamic culture in the West. But this broad area of interaction also makes it difficult for historians to identify how much of this cultural cross-fertilisation originated in the crusader states and how much originated in Sicily and Spain.
Modern historians have developed a broad consensus on relationships between the Frankish and native communities in the crusader states . Joshua Prawer and others described an outnumbered Frankish elite dominating the coastal areas of southern modern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. In this paradigm the Frankish elite is isolated from the majority population by discrimatory laws, conditions of serfdom and exclusion from positions of authority. Recently this position has been challenged by historians such as Ronnie Ellenblum, using archeological research. These challenges have recognised weaknesses and no alternative model has been presented. Christopher Tyerman points out the challenges are not a return to older theories, the sources remain the same and the archeological materials are virtually unprovable. Denys Pringle, a specialist in Frankish architecture, notes that new architectual resaerch does not contradict the segregationist view of Franksh society that earlier in the 20th century, Hans Eberhard Mayer had already written that the number of Franks living in rural settlements should not be underestimated.
It was in the 19th century that subject of the crusader states, rather than just the crusades themselves, become a subject of study. This was paricularly true among French historians. Joseph François Michaud's influencial narratives had concentrated on topics of war, conquest and settlement. Later France's colonial ambitions in the Levant were explicitly linked with French-led crusading and the Frankish character of the states. Emmanuel Rey's Les colonies franques de Syrie aux XIIme et XIIIme siècles described Frankish settlements in the Levant as colonies in which Poulains, offspring of mixed marriages, adopted local traditions and values instead of those of their Frankish descent. The first American crusade historian, Dana Carleton Munro extended this analysis describing the care the Franks took to win the goodwill of the natives. In the 20th century historians rejected this approach. R. C. Smail argued that Rey, and the like, had identified an integrated society which did not exist in order to justify French colonial regimes. The new consensus was that the society was segregated with limited social and cultural interchange. Prawer and Jonathan Riley-Smith focussed on the evidence of social, legal and political frameworks in the kingdom of Jerusalem to present a widely accepted view of a society that was largely urban, isolated from the indigenous peoples, with separate legal and religious systems. Prawer's 1972 work, The Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem:European Colonialism in the Middle Ages extended this analysis: the lack of integration was based on economics with the Franks' position depending on a subjugated, disenfranchised local population. In this arrangement the Franks' primary motivations were economic. Islamic historian Carole Hillenbrand identified that Islamic population responded with resentment, suspicion and rejection of the Franks.
This model supports the idea that the crusader states were part of the wider expansion of Western Europe in places such as Ireland, eastern Europe and Spain: driven by religious reforms and the growth of papal power. However, historians now argue that were different in that there was no vigorous church reform in the East, or resulting persecution of Jews and heretics. Some historians consider it exceptional that the 1120 Council of Nablus regulated ecclesiastical tithes, outlawed bigamy and adultery, imposed the death penality for sodomy and a penalty of castration and mutilation for any Frank engaging in sexual relations with a Muslim. Benjamin Z. Kedar considered that Nablus followed a Byzantine, rather than western reformist, precedent. This has led historians such as Claude Cahen, Jean Richard and Christopher MacEvitt to argue that the history of the crusader states is distinct from the history of the crusades. This allows other analytical techniques to be applied placing the crusader states in the context of Near Eastern politics. These ideas are sill in the process of articulation by modern historians.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Crusader states.|